It’s official! Vincent Tan’s Malaysian Red Dragon Hobby Team is “bigger by miles” than the Swans, and will soon be Wales’ equivalent of Barcelona. How know I these things? Because they were written by Craig Bellamy and published today in the Wasting Mule. Two sources that can be trusted to give balanced and impartial assessments of all things Cardiff. But there was more to it than simply having a pop at the Swans.
For example, “We could control Merthyr, Rhondda, Caerphilly. We could have them in lockdown.” “Lockdown” is a term used in the penal system, it means prisoners confined to their cells. A loss of even limited freedom. (Maybe it ties in with a theme I explore below.) Used in this context it seems to suggest that Bellamy views the Valleys as a possession of imperial Cardiff. After reading that, and if I lived in the Valleys, I would be getting worried about the prospects offered by the Cardiff city region.
Then there’s his flawed understanding of the roles played by Athletic Bilbao and Barcelona. Bellamy says: “We can build on our regional identity in the way Athletic Bilbao have placed themselves at the centre of Basque culture and Barcelona have become a focus for Catalunya.” “Regional”! He seems to see Euzkadi and Catalunya as nothing but regions of Spain. He doesn’t seem to appreciate that both clubs (Bilbao with its Basque-only players rule) represent the desire of two small nations for independence. Something else Bellamy overlooks is that Bilbao and Barcelona are owned by those sharing this ambition. Neither Bilbao nor Barcelona is owned by an unknown Oriental tycoon for whom the club is just another investment . . . someone who could walk away tomorrow.
I don’t want to sound too harsh, but Craig Bellamy has had more clubs than Jack Nicklaus, most of which have been glad to see the back of him. For throughout his career he has displayed a genius for wearing out his welcome wherever he’s gone. And that’s without the court appearances for the odd ‘altercation’. To counter the image this projects he goes to Africa now and again to be photographed with poor black kids. Image management of the kind Al Capone – the philanthropist to Chicago’s poor during the Great Depression – would have understood.
His publishers seem to have appreciated this and run with the theme, to judge by the title of the book, GoodFella, an obvious reference to Martin Scorsese’s 1990 gangster epic, GoodFellas. So which one is Bellers? Not Henry Hill, played by Ray Liotta; nor Robert De Nero’s Jimmy ‘the Gent’ Conway; I see him more as Tommy De Vito, played by Joe Pesci; the short one with the hair-trigger temper. The gangster motif is so blatant that even the noir-grungy picture used for the cover makes Bellamy look like a long dead associate of the Krays.
So what have we got here? Yet another book written by a fading footballer who never realised his potential. His publishers hope to sell more copies of the book by promoting the ‘bad boy’ image and by being provocative. As a result, this book is only for the most blinkered of Cardiff fans. Because I predict with certainty that it will not fly off the shelves in Glasgow, Liverpool, Newcastle or any of the other cities where Bellamy has played. And I can’t see any Swansea bookshops running out of copies either . . . that’s if they bother stocking it.